May 26, 2020

Who Are We Willing to Kill?

Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | May 16, 2020

“Who's willing to die for liberty?” That's what one of the protesters in Lansing barked at the crowd.
 
It was the wrong question. The correct question is this: “Who are you willing to kill?” 
 
Some 45 states already have plans to open some parts of their economy this month, despite the advice of the medical experts. Almost none meet the minimum standards suggested by the White House that now urges them to reopen. 
 
The non-binding guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and endorsed by the White House call for 14 consecutive days of diminishing COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations. Instead, several states are opening as cases continue to increase.  
 
The desire to restart a badly cratered economy is understandable, especially coming from politicians facing reelection. With shuttered businesses everywhere and unemployment soaring above 20 percent, the urge to act has become overwhelming. (Where in the world are those 80 percent still employed working?) But we reopen knowing full well more people will become sick and some will die as a result. Especially considering we've not yet figured out this virus.
 
We now know this is a very tricky ailment. It appears that at least 25 percent of those infected, and perhaps as many as 50 percent, will be asymptomatic but still contagious. We know even those exhibiting no symptoms can be infectious for up to two weeks before the symptoms present. This is why social distancing helps. 
 
We also know people can exhibit symptoms other than fever and a dry cough. Some now suffer from something called silent hypoxia; their lungs aren't absorbing enough oxygen even though they have neither a breathing issue nor a cough. We know that despite this being primarily a respiratory ailment, some people instead present gastrointestinal issues including vomiting and diarrhea. We know some people suffer blood clots and strokes. We know some children, who were once believed to be nearly immune, are suffering from a coronavirus inflammatory side effect similar to toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki Disease. 
 
Some virus experts now say the bug is adapting to and mutating within its human hosts causing an ever-expanding list of potential impacts. 
 
There is nothing medical that prevents it and nothing that cures it. Even the latest attempt with an anti-viral drug called remdisivir is not a magic bullet; it might reduce the duration of the symptoms four or five days — an improvement but no cure.
 
We're still reliably told, if you're one of those people still paying attention to science, the only solution at this point is nationwide testing, isolation of those infected, contact tracing, and the development of an effective vaccine.  
 
But we don't have nationwide testing. That's been left to the states now competing with each other for lab time and supplies, and since they’re using different tests, there is no consistency. The quick tests, which provide results in minutes, have their own problems with far too many false-negative results.  
 
States have also been left to do their own contact tracing as the federal government continues their abysmal track record with this thing. The president, who was touting his abilities as a wartime commander just a couple weeks ago, has abandoned the battlefield and headed back to the more comfortable ground of airing old grievances and just making up stuff.
 
Congress has been no better at all. They could have passed legislation mandating a coherent, nationwide pandemic response program and ordered the CDC to develop a national contact tracing program. Instead, they just keep doling out trillions of dollars we don't actually have.
 
Neither the administration nor Congress ever managed to fully figure out how to make sure every state had the medical supplies and equipment they needed. Jared Kushner's supply chain group grossly overpaid for much of what they bought, while smaller companies, who could have provided the same supplies for much less, went begging. Then they told the states they were on their own and good luck to them.
 
While the virus continues coursing through the country, we still have inadequate testing, inadequate contact tracing, and no federal leadership. Never mind that it has asymptomatic carriers, a wide variety of symptoms, impacts people of all ages, and is far more contagious and with a fatality rate 10 times that of seasonal flu.
 
So, we should ask those clamoring the most loudly to open up the economy in the name of liberty who they'd like killed. Their demands will result in people dying, so who?  Their own parents or grandparents? Siblings? Spouses? What about their children? And how many more deaths are an acceptable price?  
 
We already have, by far, the most cases and fatalities on earth. Now we're in a hurry to make that record even worse. 

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